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situations of honour, both in their native county, and at the court of their sovereign.
In 1569,* or 1570, John Shakespeare obtained from the Herald's Office a grant of arms; in 1596, he received another grant; and in 1599, a confirmation of arms, the chief object of which seems to have been, to enable him to impale with his own bearings those of Arden.?
There is reason to believe, that during the earlier part of his career, his circumstances were easy, though far from afluent. At a court leet held in October, 1556, the lease of a house in Greenhill street and that of another in Henley street, were assigned to him. In 1564, his charities place him in the second class of the inhabitants of Stratford. In 1570, he rented a field of about fourteen acres, known by the name of ** Ingon, alias Ington meadow;" and in [1575,] he purchased a small property, consisting of two houses in Henley street, with gardens and orchards annexed to them.
6 Rob. Arden de Bromwich, was in the list of Warwick. shire gentry, returned by the commissioners in 1433. In 1562, and 1568, Sim. Arden and Edw. Arden were sheriffs of the county. Sir John Arden, the elder brother of our Robert's grandfather, was squire of the body to Henry the Seventh. Robert Arden, the father of our Robert, was groom or page of the bedchamber to the same king, by whom he was constituted keeper of the royal park called Aldercar, and bailiff of the lordship of Codnore: he also obtained from the crown a valuable lease of the extensive manor of Yoxsall in Staffordshire.
[There is not sufficient authority for this statement. He is called yeoman (not gentleman, or glover,) in 1579 and in 1597. It seems quite probable, that the grant of arms was not really obtained until 1599.)
7 The later applications were doubtless made at the sug gestion of his son, who was then rising into consequence. When in these grants to John Shakespeare, mention is made of his ancestors having been advanced and rewarded by Henry the Seventh, &c., it is certain that the expressions relate not to the ancestors of John Shakespeare, but to those of his wife.—See Malone's Life of Shakespeare, p. 28, et seq. (Shak. by Boswell, ii.)
Before 1578, however, his affairs had become greatly embarrassed : in that year he mortgaged for forty pounds the little estate of Asbies, derived from his wife; was required to pay only half the sum for which the other aldermen were assessed; and was altogether excused from contributing his share of a petty weekly tax for the relief of the poor ;-see below, where will be
& When it was agreed in January, 1578, that every alderman should pay towards the furniture of three pikemen, two billmen, and one archer, vis viiid, John Shakespeare, in consideration of his embarrassments, was required to pay only iij and ivd ; in November next, when it was ordained that every alderman should contribute iiijd a week for the relief of the poor, it was determined that he should "not be taxed to pay any thing." From the will of a baker, named Sadler, who died towards the end of 1578, we find that John Shakespeare owed him five pounds, for the payment of which two per-ons had entered into securities. In an account of money levied on the inhabitants of Stratford in 1579, for the pur. chase of armour and defensive weapons, his name occurs among the defaulters. What follows is from the register of
found a variety of notices, drawn from the records of the borough of Stratford, &c., which sufficiently indicate the decline of his fortunes. In 1586, in consequence of his having neglected the business of his office, another alderman was appointed in his stead.9
In a bill of complaint against John Lambert, which he exhibited in Chancery in 1597, he describes himself as a “man of very small wealth ;
the Bailiff's Court, in 1585–86, [the words being written without contraction.-Jan. 19, 28 Eliz.; Ad hunc diem servientes ad clavam burgi prædicti retornant processum de distringas eis directum versus Johannem Shackspere ad sectam Johannis Browne, quod prædictus Johannes Shackspere nihil habet unde distringi potest. Ideo fiat capias versus eundem Johannem Shackspere ad sectam prædicti Johannis Browne, si petatur.-It may be added that in 1579 John Shakespeare parted with his wife's interest in two tenements in Snitterfield for the small sum of 41.]
In a report to the Privy Council, dated Sept. 25, 1592, a return is made of "such recusants as have been heretofore presented for not coming weekly to the church according to her Majesty's laws." John Shakespeare appears on a list with eight others, of whom “it is said that these last come not to church for fear of process for debt.”
9 “At the hail, holden on the 6th day of September, in the twenty-eighth year of our Sovereign lady, Queen Elizabeth.
“At this hall, William Smith and Richard Courte are chosen to be aldermen, in the places of John Wheler and John Shakspeare, for that Mr. Wheler doth desire to be put out of the company, and Mr. Shakspere doth not come to the halls, when they be warned, nor hath not done of long time."
10 At the bottom of the grant of arms to John Shakespeare, made in 1596, is a note, “ That he hath lands and tenements of good wealth and substance, 500l." But Malone has, I think, sufficiently accounted for this minute, and shown that it is not entitled to credit. See his Life of Shakespeare, p. 89, et seq. (Shak. by Boswell, ii.)
and who had very few friends or alliances in the county of Warwick."
He died in 1601. Mary Shakespeare deceased in 1608. We are not to suppose that during their later years they. were left to struggle with pecuniary difficulties: their gifted son, who was then possessed of considerable property, doubtless assisted them to the utmost of his means.
Four sons, and four daughters, born in the following order, were the offspring of this pair: Joan, Margaret, William, Gilbert, another Joan, Anne, Richard, and Edmund. The elder Joan, Margaret, and Anne, were cut off immaturely. Whether Gilbert died at an early, or at an advanced period of life, is uncertain. The second Joan became the wife of William Hart, a hatter in Stratford, and died in 1646. Richard, of whom nothing is known, was buried in 1612–13,
It may be added here, that few of the corporation of Stratford in those days could write their names, and that among the marksmen is found John Shakespeare.
11 It has been supposed that Gilbert was the brother of our author, who, according to Oldys, “lived to a good old age, even some years after the restoration of King Charles the Secoud," and saw the great dramatist perform a character in one of his own plays, which, froin the description, inust have been Adam in As You Like It. The anecdote is given in a later part of this Memoir.
having nearly attained the age of thirty-nine. Edmund embraced the profession of an actor, played at the Globe Theatre, and was interred in the church of St. Saviour's (the parish where he resided) on the 31st of December, 1607, in his twenty-eighth year.
William Shakespeare, the third child and the eldest son of his parents, was born 14 at Stratfordupon-Avon, in April, 1564; as he was baptized on the 26th,18 it has been conjectured that his birth took place on the 23d of the month.
When he was about nine weeks old, the plague broke out in his native town; but though it raged there during six months with the most fatal violence, we gather from the register of deaths that not a single individual of the name of Shake. speare became its victim.
No anecdotes of his earliest years have been preserved. All the education he received was
12 A house in Henley street is pointed out as that in which Shakespeare was born; but whether it is "the very roof that sheltered his infant innocence," (as Dr. Drake has it) may perhaps be doubted. In 1820 I visited this mansion, and saw the “Shakesperian relics," which are there exhibited to all "curious travellers ;” they consist of a card and dice box with a pincushion on its top, presented to him by the Prince of Castile, a Toledo, an iron box which inclosed his Will, a table cloth of black velvet embroidered with gold, the gift of Queen Elizabeth, his wife's shoe, a drinking-glass, made for him in his sickness, a table on which he wrote his works, &c.
18 [The memorandum in the register is as follows: 1564. April 26. Gulielmus filius Johannes Shakspere.)